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2 Netflix Gems You Might Have Missed

Kappela: Forget Bollywood, all the excitement this years seems to be happening in Malayalam cinema.  After  the  outstanding Mothoon  here comes  another whammy  from the  land of  gorgeous greenery.Sure enough . Kappela  captures  the Kerala countryside with a caressing glance  that  we get only  in their  homespun  films. The film is set in rural Kerala, though  luckily there are no  coconut trees and football players .

This  nutty  anti-romcom takes  us  on an   unexpected   rollercoaster  ride…Rather , a  bumpy busride  where the film’s achingly  young inexperienced  rustic heroine  Jessy(Anna Ben) almost loses everything, only to have  her soul redeemed just in  time.

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This is a kickass morality tale  . I am afraid to give away  the plot. Suffice it to say that  for all my movie-viewing  experience  I could have  never guessed what  the  writer-direcror Musthafa(believe  it  or not, this is  the actor-turned-director’s directorial  debut)  was  leading into.Nope, I never  saw the  twist coming. Life’s  life that.(I  can bet  it will be lapped up for  a Bollywood remake in  no time at all.)The  film’s first- half is  a dainty phone-romance between  Jessy and Vishnu(Roshan Matthew) a kindly helpful affable autorickshaw  driver whom Jessy dials  by  mistake. Therein begins their  sweet  romance, filled with  silly riddles and  frilly  giggles.

Mid-way  through the  film  Jessy decides to sneak away from her parental gaze  to meet  the  unseen love of her life.The  bus journey will change her life.

Suddenly the  serene  storytelling  swerves  into an unexpected  U –turn. For  about  20 minutes  of the second-half when the  film’s loutish   shamelessly  parasitical  hero  Roy(Sreenath Bhasi) is introduced, I thought I  was watching  another  film altogether.   But then the director, fully conscious of  where he  is going and with a grip on the moral graph of  the three main  protgaonists’ destiny,  manoeuvres  the story through the stormy  incidents with expertise.

There is  not  one idle moment in Kappela. The director’s eye  for detail is one of the  film’s  many virtues. In one sequence when Jessy gets into the window seat  of a bus in the pouring rain I actually saw raindrops on her seat. The  pace  through always in a race, never lacks in grace.

By the time the  film  screeches  to a halt three lives  are changed   irreversibly. And we  breathe a sigh  of relief .All is well in the world, at least this time. But for  all the  Jessys  of the world who venture  out to explore the  mystery  of  love, here is  a  warning.Never  love  a stranger.

There is a beautiful tender moment at  the end when  Jessy , her bare feet  buried in the  watery sand stares into the sea that she’s seen  for  the first time. As  she gazes into  the  unfathomable   unknown we get a full measure of  what  life means. You  never know what it  has in store.

Axone It may seem  like that right now. But racial discrimination is not peculiar  to  America. In India  many communities  and cultures have suffered generations  of prejudice and  violent attacks.It’s  a sign of the times that a film on the hardships faced by North Eastern  students  in Delhi  has come for cinematic scrutiny in a film that  combines culinary  distinctiveness with  cultural  immersion  in  a cinematic language that’s interestingly hybridized .Not everything  fits. There are portions when the writer-director seems to put too much on his plate.

But the  pungent North-eastern  pork dish named axone serves well as a metaphor for culturally  distinctive people who fail to  create a sense of belonging when away from home and insist on creating their own cultural  island  in the metropolitan  bustle.Admirably, director Nicholas Kharkongor takes  no sides.  If his  North-eastern  characters are  victims of  an ethnic subversion, they are also responsible for their plight .

Sayani Gupta, a fine actress when  given  some meat  in her part, sinks her teeth  into the pork dish with a deep understanding of  the  dynamics  that drive  migrants into an  abyss. Gupta plays a Nepali and hence a  bit of an outsider even in her North-Eastern  circle of friends. But  from outside she’s one  of ‘them’ facing  rude  comments  like, ‘All of you look the same.’

 The  director’s strong views  on  segregation come through in some  well-written scenes of street  violence.Chanbi(Lin Laishram,beautifully sullen)  is slapped by  a Delhi lout  for protestiong against his eveteasing.Later when the perpetrator’s  father  intervenes  to discipline his  son, Chanbi  remarks sarcastically,  “Aap hi  se  sikha hoga.”

Most uncalled-for and  symptomatic of the constant victim  syndrome that   people  from outside the mainstream suffer from. In the beginning  there is  poor  Bendang(LANUAKUM AO)  trying to learn a  Hindi song(Uthe sab ke kadam  from the film Baaton Baaton Mein).Symbolically, he masters  the  words  and the tune at the  end. But not before he insults  a helpful over-friendly Delhi boy Shiv(Roshan Joshi) who’s  seen trying to help the North-easterners  all through the  narrative  only to be rewarded  with smirks and  rolling of  the eyes.

 Prudently the narration suggests  that perhaps  a part of  the problem being faced by minority communities is their own persecution  complex. Perhaps if marginalized people  stop licking their wounds all the time  they can inculcate  a  sense  of belonging  in  the mainstream  of society.

The  film has some  lovely contemplative  moments  and  the culture-specific cast  captures the spirit of  the  script. While the marginalized  characters   bustle  their way through  a series  of  misadventures  the director  pulls back, lets  the  characters  breathe.A luxury they can rarely afford in  real life.Axone is  a film that  must be seen by every one who has suffered  discrimination or abuse  . It  may not have achieved the heights of self expression that it seems to have set for itself,But  it’s a brave admirable attempt.

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